Taking Time Off Before Starting College – How To Handle The Gap Year

There is a film called “Temple Grandin,” a true story about a brilliant – and socially outcast – autistic girl. Temple’s mother forced her to go to college, despite Temple’s desire to work on a ranch instead. In this case, the mother’s insistence turned out to be best thing that could have happened to Temple. She went on to get a Masters Degree and to become a professor of Autism and Animal Science at Colorado University.

A “gap year” is a year off between high school and college, and students who choose to take this year off fall into two categories. Some are up to great things in the world – training for the Olympics, trekking in Nepal, studying marine life on the barrier reef. These students have a passion that they want to pursue and college takes second seat to these dreams.

The other category would have preferred to go straight to college, but they do not get admitted to a school they want to attend. Should they go to their “safety” school or spend a year doing something else, hoping they will have better luck next year?

What if my child wants to take a year off?

If you’re the parent of a student considering a gap year, and if you strongly believe she should go to a safety school rather than take a year off, see if you can get her to come to that decision herself. I believe that forcing a teenager to go to a school she thinks she’ll hate can be a recipe for disaster. Temple Grandin was the exception rather than the rule.

Life’s Unpredictability

Many students who do attend schools that were not on the top of their list end up having a great time (as attested to by Carolyn Mulligan, College Admissions Consultant). I believe most of these students came to the decision themselves to attend a less than perfect school. I have experienced this type of phenomenon myself; when I first started my business, I thought I would hate marketing. Guess what? It’s my favorite part of my job!

On the flip side, sometimes you think you will love something only to find out it was not the right fit after all. This happened to me as well: I thought I’d like being a lawyer, and discovered it was not the perfect fit I had imagined.

Do your research!

For high school seniors, before jumping in to what looks like an undesirable situation, and before saying a definite no, visit the school. Speak to students. Sit in on classes. Maybe even stay overnight and eat breakfast in the cafeteria or dining hall. If at all possible, find out what it’s like to be there. Then make your decision.

If you do decide to take a year off, make it a valuable year. Learn something you wouldn’t have learned in college. Gain life experience. Become more of the person you want to be. If you can do any of those things, in my opinion, you will not only be a better college candidate the following year, but you will be a more fulfilled human being.

Have you ever accepted an offer for a job or school admission that you thought you would love and ended up hating? Or discovered you didn’t fit as well as you thought you would in a job or a school? What’s your advice for students facing these decisions?

How to Market Your Freelancing Services As a College Student

As a starting college student, generating credibility or expertise in a given field is an uphill drive. You don’t have the little paper with cute calligraphy that guarantees your completed degree, and as such, you are nobody.

Or are you?

Pardon me, folks, but I beg to differ! In fact, if you are majoring in any communications related major, you’ve got it easier than other college students. Why? For the simple fact that you don’t need to worry about the dangers of a miscalculation that could cause a bridge to collapse or prescribing the wrong drug that could kill your patient.

As a communications major-be it journalism, creative writing, film, broadcasting, or even art-the worse that can happen is not having your project turn out as nicely as you hoped it would. And even that is solved by spending a little extra time perfecting the little details of your print article, interactive graphic, or film. Or worst case scenario, re-doing it.

But I’m getting off track. Can you, as an undergrad college student, create an expert platform so as to start generating income? Yes! And I’m not talking about a non-paying internship. I’m talking about marketing yourself!

Marketing, you say? I know, I know…it sounds like such a big, scary word. It really isn’t. Here, let me give you a simple definition of what marketing entails:

Selling your services + Getting your name known= $$$

There, now that wasn’t that complicated, was it? The real question here is how to get your name out there. Google comes to mind. High page ranks on your personal blog or website. Any of this ringing a bell? It should. We’ve discussed in previous posts how to get your first freelance writing assignment and how to keep up a professional blog that will in essence become your online portfolio. Now all you have to worry about is generating traffic and getting quality back links to your site.

In order to accomplish this, you will need to focus on 3 things:

1) Blog/Personal Website:

You need to get your name out there. A professional blog and/or website will become your online portfolio that will brand you as a competent worker. Focus on generating traffic, high page ranks, and quality back links to your site.

2) Submit E-zine/Hub Page articles:

Article submission is free and quite simple. Every article can have 1 or 2 back links to the author’s personal or affiliate site. Eventually having a number of these out there will help your name to have higher page rankings in Google. And isn’t that what we all want?

3) Submit a press release at Prweb.com:

Once you have some freelance experience under your belt (whether freelance work done for a local newspaper or blogging site), you can send out a press release detailing your company services. Because as a freelancer, you are the boss of your freelancing company!

Submitting a press release will also serve to increase your website traffic. Don’t believe me? As their site puts it, “PRWeb gets your story onto major news sites like Google News, Yahoo News, and Topix. We also distribute your news release to more than 250,000 subscribers, 30,000 websites and 30,000 bloggers and journalists.” As of this writing, sending a PRWeb news release only costs $89. But wouldn’t it be worth it? If you’re going to do something, go pro!

So there you have it. Create a professional blog/website, write Ezine & Hub articles with a back link to your professional blog/website, and send out a press release detailing your company services. Go all out and see just how far these three simple things will take you far ahead from the rest of your college peers.

Get a Jump Start on Life! Early College Boosts Opportunity for Teens

It was “Pomp and Circumstance” once more this spring as we attended another college graduation. This time, my 19-year-old son was graduating with his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. In less than a month, he would start his new position as an Assistant Technical Analyst in a Fortune 500 corporation. But wait… at nineteen, isn’t he supposed to be starting college?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen the point in wasting time. I was always the kid who read ahead in class, finished homework before leaving school for the day, and saw no point in filling out sixteen workbook pages on a concept I already knew. When it came to educating my four boys, I’ve taken a similar approach. Once the basics of a subject are mastered, they can move ahead as quickly as they like, earning college credit while still in high school. Why not?

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that’s the stuff life is made of.” Although traditional education has decreed that primary and secondary education should take twelve or thirteen years to complete, there is no good reason to spend that amount of time, unless you want to.

For homeschooling families, there are much more productive ways to spend those dozen years than crawling through a traditional course of study. The most compelling benefits of earning college credit during high school include increased credibility for the homeschool transcript, and a dramatic savings in the time and money needed to obtain a college degree. Let’s talk about these benefits, and the two simplest ways you can start earning credit – standardized college-level exams and community college classes.

Credibility: Show What You Know While diversity is one of homeschooling’s greatest assets, it can also be perceived as a liability. Pity the poor college admissions officer who has to wade through hundreds of applications and transcripts each week! When dealing with an accredited public or private school, he knows there is an objective system for assigning grades. When dealing with a homeschooler’s application, though, he has no idea how objectively or by what standards grades are assigned. It makes it difficult to measure a homeschooler against someone who has been traditionally schooled.

So how can a student measurably and credibly demonstrate his learning? A parent-created high school transcript is a start, but it won’t tell the whole story, unless it shows results from standardized tests or grades from sources other than the parent. When an admission officer sees on a transcript that a homeschooled student has taken English Literature and earned a ‘B,’ he has no way of knowing the scope and depth of the student’s work. However, if the transcript lists a standardized test score or college grade along with the parent-granted grade, the admissions officer immediately has a better picture of what the student has studied and how well he understood the material. This gives him an objective point of reference, and as a bonus, may also impress him!

Save Time: Turn Study Hours into Credit Hours I recently read that it is taking students longer than ever to earn a four-year college degree. Some students are juggling jobs and school, while others have had difficulty settling on a major. Imagine what an advantage a student would have if he or she entered college with a year or two of college credit that was accumulated during the high school years! This credit cushion would provide several wonderful options. The student could:

* Choose to graduate early

* Spend a year exploring classes that look interesting

* Opt for a double major

* Start a microbusiness

* Spend time as an intern or volunteer

* Travel

By learning deeply and purposefully, and investing a little time in testing or college classes during high school, you can make the most of the high school years, and open doors to many interesting opportunities.

Money: A Penny Saved is a Dollar Earned Community college classes and college-level exams are a cheap way to earn college credit. Classes usually cost considerably less than $100 per credit hour, and most exams cost less than $100 for three to six credits. That works out to less than thirty dollars per credit hour for three-credit exams, and less than twenty dollars per credit for six-credit exams. Compared with community college classes, which are reasonable enough, exams come out way ahead, unless your state pays for community college classes when they are taken as a dual-credit option.

Why College-Level Exams? There are two benefits you can earn with exams such as the AP, CLEP, or DSST – advanced placement (also known as “testing out” of otherwise required classes), or actual college credit. The decision as to which benefit to grant rests with the college you choose, but either way, you add credibility to your transcript and save both time and money by taking them.

The beauty of exams is that they don’t cause a lot of extra work. Any high-school subject can be broadened and deepened to college-level, especially a subject in which the student has a natural interest. The exams measure whether a student has acquired knowledge and understanding that is approximately comparable to what he would learn in an introductory-level college course. If a student loves a subject and has read extensively on his own, he may be ready to pass a college-level exam without much further study.

College-level exams are convenient. AP exams are offered at high schools; CLEP, DSST, and other exams are offered at test centers on college campuses nationwide. You can take exams whenever you’re ready – there’s no age limit. They’re cheaper than most other ways of earning college credit. They’re objective, many are widely accepted, and they make the most of your time. And scores are maintained on a testing company transcript for twenty years so that you can have them sent to any schools you wish at any time during those years.

Try College (with Training Wheels) Your local community college or junior college offers another option for earning credit in classes, such as lab sciences, that are difficult to manage at home. It’s like college with training wheels-most students commute, many are first-generation college students, and classes are often designed to bring these students up to speed so they can transfer to a four-year college if they wish. The application process is simple; tuition is usually much lower than at a four-year school; and students can begin by trying just one or two classes at a time with no long-term commitment.

I’ve heard of students as young as 10 years old being admitted, but most schools prefer that students be 13 or older. My sons started taking classes when they were 15 or 16, and it has been a very positive experience for all of them. Both of my older sons completed associate’s degrees, then transferred to four-year schools to complete their bachelor’s. It’s really nice to be graduating from college, when other people your age are graduating from high school!

An Opportunity and a Challenge As outsiders in the education establishment, homeschoolers sometimes face a credibility gap. While this needn’t affect our educational choices, it’s nice to be able to go above and beyond the ordinary in providing objective proof of learning. College-level exams and community college classes are cheap, accessible ways of earning college credit and proving that homeschoolers can teach themselves nearly anything they want to know.

When you decide to homeschool through high school, you have already made one non-traditional educational choice. By taking it a step farther, you can open to the door to some wonderful options that will help your student make the most of the teen years. Together, you and your teen can choose a homeschool experience that prepares them to soar. Are you ready to get a jump-start on college?

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